Bagni di Lucca, corner of Tuscany loved by the English of 1800 | Bellarome

Bagni di Lucca, corner of Tuscany loved by the English of 1800

Bagni di Lucca is an Italian town of 6.095 inhabitants in the province of Lucca (Val di Lima), in Tuscany.

Bagni di Lucca was a true elite destination for European tourism before the boom of the coasts made us forget this corner of Lucca, which the British called the “Switzerland of Tuscany”. Just the Anglo-Saxons were the first to discover Bagni di Lucca and the therapeutic properties of its waters, loving it to the point of transforming it into a small second home.


Although the Roman presence has left few artifacts, it can be dated back to the 3rd century BC. and more stable in the second century BC, when Lucca became an important Roman colony. The presence of Roman colonists can also be found in the toponymy of the places: Brandeglio, Villa Terenziana, Vico Pancellorum, Lugliano, Palleggio, Vetteglia, Casabasciana, Benabbio, Ponte a Diana, Corsena (with the Centurion plaque), etc.

At the spa, the legend tells of the existence of the cult of Celtic gods protecting the waters, while the presence in the valley of the cult of Diana is testified by its temple, above which the church of San Cassiano di Controni was built.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the valley also underwent barbarian invasions, which caused unspeakable suffering for the populations. The dominion of the Lombards since 570 and the subsequent union of the Roman population with the Germans led to the repopulation of mountain areas considered healthier and more defensible.

With the conversion to Christianity in 603 there will be the ecclesiastical divisions of the area still in force (pieve dei Monti di Villa “Villa Terenziana”, pieve di Controni, pieve di Vico Pancellorum, pieve di Casabasciana).

The division into domains of powerful consortiums of Lombard origin will dominate until the advent of the Franks and the division into fiefdoms will remain unchanged until the penetration of the Municipality of Lucca into the valley.

Bagni di Lucca became “summer capital and flagship” of the Lucca state.

The restoration, with the Bourbons, and above all with the duchy of Carlo Ludovico from 1826 to 1847, will project Bagni di Lucca to the level of tourist-spa resort of first importance in Europe.

Let’s start our tour in this unique and enchanting town!




Lucca Thermal Baths

The city of Lucca enjoys the proximity of the thermal baths of Lucca Thermal Baths, a popular spa town just 25 km from the historic center. Immersed in the natural landscape, the spas are located on the Tuscan Apennines in a privileged position where the Serchio river and the Lima torrent flow, whose waters containing bicarbonate sulphate and calcium have curative as well as beneficial purposes.

The hyper-thermal waters of Lucca Thermal Baths gush out at a temperature of 45 ° C and have an anti-inflammatory and relaxing effect. There is a thermal pool, whose waters flow from the thermal spring of the Doccione at 54 ° C and a wellness center that offers the possibility of following various treatments including mud, massages, face / body and anti-aging services.

The thermal springs were already known in medieval times for their therapeutic properties but acquired importance in the national and international panorama after the French Revolution thanks to Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister, who made Bagni di Lucca one of the reference points of life worldly.

During the Belle Epoque period and at the beginning of the twentieth century, the spas of Lucca hosted numerous illustrious figures such as Pascoli, Shelley, Byron, Puccini and Henry James

Today, the baths of Lucca Thermal Baths are intact compared to the course of time, restoration interventions have only required a modernization of the lighting that accompanies the visitor in a suggestive way in the passages of the caves.

The center of Lucca Thermal Baths is in fact divided into two establishments, the Terme di Jean Varraud and Casa Boccella, where professionals treat vascular, respiratory and rheumatic diseases.

The presence of the wellness center also allows a perfect remise en forme to tone, relax and purify the body with mud, massages and treatments of specific oils and creams in an atmosphere of hospitality and welcome.


Royal Casino

This is the first real land-based casino in Italy and the oldest in Europe: the Royal Casino of Bagni di Lucca.

It was perhaps even the first casino in history. We are talking about the Bagni di Lucca Royal Casino.

We will tell you about its rise and subsequent decline, until its closure over sixty years ago, when the concession expired. But it did not end there in fact the hall was then reopened twice more recently.


Today the Royal Casino of Bagni di Lucca operates as a gambling museum and as an automated room with many gaming devices. Without a doubt, an excellent reason to consider combining your passion for discoveries and travel with that for gambling and its history.

So, let’s see everything about this historic gambling house and then move on to what else the city of Lucca offers for a hypothetical holiday between play, relaxation and culture.

Champion of Italy, Sanremo, Saint Vincent and Venice. We are used to thinking of these four cities, when it comes to casinos in Italy but history tells us more because these popular names were not the only gambling halls in our area, and according to some historians not even the first. This title, in fact, would belong to the Bagni di Lucca Casino which, according to many historians, would be not only the first Italian casino, but even the first real casino ever to exist.

One of the first European Casinos inaugurated in 1839, built by two French entrepreneurs, Adrien Mathis and Edouard Ginnestet who obtained the gambling rights from the Duke of Lucca Carlo Lodovico in exchange for the construction.

The Games of the time were: Pharaoh, at the Royal, at the Biribisso (the ancient roulette), but there were also dance parties, literary and musical academies, but not only quarrels, duel challenges between nobles and adventurers. Today some of these games have been rebuilt from the Vicariate of Lima and can be tried during their demonstrations.

In 1847, the Duchy of Lucca passed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Grand Duke Leopoldo prohibited gambling.

Today, the casino is used for parties, conferences, exhibitions, and weddings. Its frescoed walls and its chandeliers make the photos unique.


The Academic Theater

The Academic Theater was built in 1790 by some citizens established in the Accademia dei Provvidi. During the nineteenth century, the theater hosted both lyrical and prose plays of primary importance.

With the fading of interest both towards the spa town and towards theatrical performances, the theater was sold by the Academy to the Municipality and in 1934 underwent several works for its transformation into a cinema, including the realization of the projection booth on the stage above the real one.

After the Second World War the theater was closed, thus beginning a long period of abandonment, interrupted by the restoration undertaken in 1980 on a project by the engineer Lisandro Gambogi of Lucca and now concluded.

From 1987 until 1997 the cultural association “Il Teatraccio” managed the theater, organizing the winter prose season and many other events before it returned to full management to the municipal administration.

The theater, which presents the typical forms of Italian theater (ovoid-shaped stalls with 29 stages divided into two orders and a loggia) can be used as a space for prose and opera performances, for concerts and cultural encounters.

Today it has been used for the Prose Season and has hosted the Teatro Scuola project in the spring for 26 years, becoming a place of exchange and education for students from all over Italy.


Villa Ada

Villa Ada was born on a late Renaissance structure owned by the Lucca family De Nobili, it was completely renovated in the nineteenth century, by Sir Mac Bean, British consul in Livorno, and at the same time the two high hexagonal towers were built that give the villa its characteristic appearance.

The building is surrounded by a large park of romantic taste, enriched by artificial limestone caves, wrought iron railings in the shape of intertwined branches, and other typical furnishing elements of the time. A path, which starts from the terrace near the villa, leads to a pergola continuing towards an artificial cave.

The villa, purchased in 1975 by the Municipality of Bagni di Lucca, was used as a spa treatment facility. To date, however, the villa is abandoned, with obvious structural problems due to poor maintenance of the property. Even the garden and the cave are paying the carelessness of the entire property. In the second half of the 90s the villa was rented to the global village which used it for spa treatments and receptions.

Restoration work began, with the painting of the villa. Interrupted almost immediately, the villa remained in disuse for years and was often used as a home by some homeless people in the area. Finally closed, the villa had been entrusted to the Vicaria Val di Lima who took care of the garden, until the contract expired, even if the entire structure would need an imposing restoration.

The villa, surrounded by a splendid park of romantic taste, is presented today as the result of overlapping of successive construction periods. The property, once used as a spa, by virtue of its characteristics and its location, is well suited to be used as a tourist-accommodation facility.


Villa Fiori

The Villa, which takes its name from Baron Fiori its first owner, represents one of the most valuable examples of neoclassical architecture. Built in the second half of the 19th century, it is now in a state of neglect. It is only rarely open for some events.

The property, which previously belonged to the Northwest Tuscany Local Health Unit, was acquired in 2008 by the municipal authority in exchange for the premises of the former Ferretti primary school. From that moment, however, a real via crucis began for Villa Fiori, which has so far not seen anyone interested in its purchase

The villa was built in the second half of the 19th century, and it is a fine architectural example with neoclassical and neo-Gothic elements, the result of stylistic reinterpretations of the early 1900s.

The property, surrounded by a beautiful garden designed according to the particular position it occupies on a bend in the Lima stream, enjoys a splendid view of the entire surrounding valley.

The property can be used as a tourist-accommodation facility with the possibility of further buildings.


The Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge is a bridge over the Lima River located in Fornoli, a hamlet of Bagni di Lucca.

It was built from 1844 to 1860 on commission from the Duke of Lucca Carlo Ludovico di Borbone and designed by Lorenzo Nottolini. It was a futuristic work for the time. The Duke literally imposed it on his royal architect who, before drafting the project, had to personally visit similar architectures made in England.

The work is based on the innovative use of industrial iron techniques, through suspension with chains, and on a complex underground mechanism that keeps chains themselves under tension.

However, this did not prevent the design of a work that met the aesthetic criteria of the then dominant classicism, with the two triumphal arches located at the ends of the bridge.

It suffered serious damage during the Second World War, the entire planking ended in the river, but after the end of the war in 1953 it was rebuilt according to the original design.

The structure of the bridge, with its large panoramic terraces that give access to the walkway, is designed so as to make it also a meeting and social life point for the country, not just a way to cross the stream.

The work is based on the innovative use of industrial iron techniques, through suspension with chains and on a complex underground mechanism that keeps the chains in tension.

The bridge has two triumphal arches at the two ends with as many as 16 niches in which it is unknown what was to be placed later. From Nottolini’s design it also appears that above the two bases that hide the chains, two lions had to be placed, one on the right and the other on the left.

The walkway, once driveway, is made of wooden plank. The chains pass inside two openings in the arches where there are rollers on which they slide, then descend to enter two stone bases located on the terraces and then disappear into the underground floor where they are anchored.

On the Chifenti side the chains are only anchored to stone and iron pillars, and can be viewed only by lifting the lid of the bases, while on the side of Fornoli, under the bridge there is an iron gate that enters the stone base at the height of the river, inside there are tunnels that lead to a compartment where the chains are anchored with a device that keeps them in traction.

The central span of the chains supports the planking of the bridge itself by means of iron tie rods called stays which have at their ends an inverted anchor anchored to the chains which are double, two internal coupled and the other two on the two sides, the stay in its length passes in the supporting beam by drilling it and by means of a slot, always in iron, surrounds the beam supporting it. Above these beams rests a wooden plank and the walking surface.

The bridge today has a wooden and iron handrail, but this detail was added only after the complete renovation in 2003 with the intervention of the Province of Lucca and with the contribution of the World Monument Found American Express.

The Chain Bridge is the first bridge made of iron and wood in Italy.

The starting date of the works makes it one of the oldest still existing iron bridges in continental Europe.


Ponte della Maddalena

The Ponte della Maddalena (called Devil’s Bridge) crosses the Serchio river near Borgo a Mozzano, in the province of Lucca.

As a result of its shape, its taller, wider, and particular arch, almost inhuman, this pearl of engineering is the subject of many tales.

The construction of a bridge connecting the two banks of the Serchio is due to the will of the Countess Matilde di Canossa between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but the current features are due to the remaking of Castruccio Castracani, lord of Lucca at the beginning of the 14th century.

The construction of the bridge dates back to the times of the Countess Matilde of Canossa, who lived at the turn of the year 1000 and who had great influence and power over the whole Garfagnana.

The current structure, however, is due to the reconstruction carried out by Castruccio Castracani, leader and lord of nearby Lucca, in the early 1300s. The appearance of the bridge is the classic medieval one called “humpback”, higher in the central point of the arch.

But the Devil’s Bridge offers itself with a substantial difference which here becomes a unique feature: its arches are asymmetrical and the central one is so high and wide that its solidity seems a challenge to the law of gravity.

It is called Ponte della Maddalena because of an Oratory that was located at the foot of the structure on the left bank of the Serchio river.

The bridge, although with called Ponte della Maddalena, is commonly identified as the “Devil’s Bridge”. Like many other enterprises that seemed impossible to the contemporaries, popular legend attributes the construction to the devil, who is then cheated in various ways.

The legend tells of the chief mason engaged in the construction of the bridge who was very worried about the delay accumulated in the same work, given the continuous and impetuous floods of the river. One evening in despair he began to pronounce sacrileges such as to evoke Satan. Then the devil told the master builder that he would complete the work himself in one night in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge; chief mason accepted, and construction was completed. The foreman, desperate for the imminence of the heavy tribute to the devil, ran to the parish priest of the town, who, having heard the confession, devised a stratagem: he made a dog cross the bridge.

The devil, enraged by the shrewd gesture, took it and threw himself into the waters of the river without ever seeing him again. It is also said that the dog, a completely white Maremma shepherd, occasionally sees himself walking on the bridge in the last evenings of October and that he represents the devil who still seeks the soul of the foreman. It is also said to be able to observe the petrified body of the poor animal on the bottom of the river. arious alterations, remained intact at least until 1836 when a violent flood of the Serchio caused serious damage.

At the beginning of 1900, a new arch was opened in the part ending in the west for the passage of the Lucca-Aulla railway, heavily modifying its original shape.